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    Faithful Until the Harvest

    A woman I know planned an event at a local park and invited all the neighborhood children to participate. She was excited about the opportunity to share her faith with her neighbors.

    She recruited her three grandchildren and two high school students to help her, gave the assignments, planned a number of games and other activities, prepared food, worked on a story about Jesus to present to the children, and waited for them to gather.

    Not a single child showed up the first day. Or the second day. Or the third day. Yet, each day my friend went through that day’s activities…

    Refined in the Fire

    Twenty-four karat gold is 100 percent gold with no impurities. But that percentage is difficult to achieve. Refiners most commonly use one of two methods for the purification process. The Miller method is the quickest and least expensive, but the resulting gold is only about 99.95 percent pure. The Wohlwill process takes a little more time and costs more, but the gold produced is 99.99 percent pure.

    In Bible times, refiners used fire as a gold purifier. Fire caused impurities to rise to the surface for easier removal. In his first letter to Christians throughout Asia Minor (northern Turkey), the apostle…

    Trusting God in Times of Sorrow

    When a man known as “Papa John” learned he had terminal cancer, he and his wife, Carol, sensed God calling them to share their illness journey online. Believing that God would minister through their vulnerability, they posted their moments of joy and their sorrow and pain for two years.

    When Carol wrote that her husband “went into the outstretched arms of Jesus,” hundreds of people responded, with many thanking Carol for their openness. One person remarked that hearing about dying from a Christian point of view was healthy, for “we all have to die” someday. Another said that although she’d never met…

    Trusting God in Times of Sorrow

    When a man known as “Papa John” learned he had terminal cancer, he and his wife, Carol, sensed God calling them to share their illness journey online. Believing that God would minister through their vulnerability, they posted their moments of joy and their sorrow and pain for two years.

    When Carol wrote that her husband “went into the outstretched arms of Jesus,” hundreds of people responded, with many thanking Carol for their openness. One person remarked that hearing about dying from a Christian point of view was healthy, for “we all have to die” someday. Another said that although she’d never met…

    When the Splendor Is Gone

    I can never recapture the splendor that was our daughter Melissa. Fading from my memory are those wonderful times when we watched her joyfully playing high school volleyball. And it’s sometimes hard to remember the shy smile of contentment that crossed her face when we were doing family activities. Her death at age seventeen dropped a curtain on the joy of her presence.

    In the book of Lamentations, Jeremiah’s words show he understood that the heart can be punctured. “My splendor is gone,” he said, “and all that I had hoped from the Lord” (3:18). His situation was far different from…

    Treasure the Moments

    Su Dongpo (also known as Su Shi), was one of China’s greatest poets and essayists. While in exile and gazing upon a full moon, he wrote a poem to describe how much he missed his brother. “We rejoice and grieve, gather and leave, while the moon waxes and wanes. Since times of old, nothing remains perfect,” he writes. “May our loved ones live long, beholding this beautiful scene together though thousands of miles apart.”

    His poem carries themes found in the book of Ecclesiastes (1:1). The author, known as the Teacher, observed that there’s “a time to weep and a time to…

    Navigating Life’s Rapids

    “Everybody on the left, give me three strong forward strokes!” our whitewater raft guide shouted. Those on the left dug in, pulling our raft away from a churning vortex. For several hours, we’d learned the importance of listening to our guide’s instructions. His steady voice enabled six people with little rafting experience to work together to plot the safest course down a raging river.

    Life has its share of whitewater rapids, doesn’t it? One moment, it’s smooth sailing. Then, in a flash, we’re paddling like mad to avoid suddenly swirling whirlpools. Those tense moments make us keenly aware of our need…

    Beat Again

    In 2012, Phillips, Craig and Dean released their song “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again.” It was inspired by the true story of a heart surgeon. After removing a patient’s heart to repair it, the surgeon returned it into the chest and began gently massaging it back to life. But the heart wouldn’t restart. More intense measures followed, but the heart still wouldn’t beat. Finally, the surgeon knelt next to the unconscious patient and spoke to her: “Miss Johnson,” he said, “this is your surgeon. The operation went perfectly. Your heart has been repaired. Now tell your heart to beat…

    Eternal Eyes

    Eternal eyes, that’s what my friend Madeline prays her children and grandchildren would have. Her family has gone through a tumultuous season that ended with the death of her daughter. As the family grieves from this horrific loss, Madeline longs for them to be less and less nearsighted—consumed by the pain of this world. And to be more and more farsighted—filled with hope in our loving God.

    The apostle Paul and his co-workers experienced great suffering at the hands of persecutors and even from believers who tried to discredit them. Yet, they had their eyes fixed on eternity. Paul boldly…

    Is God There?

    Lela was dying of cancer, and her husband, Timothy, couldn’t understand why a loving God would let his wife suffer. She had served Him faithfully as a Bible teacher and mentor to many. “Why did You let this happen?” he cried. Yet Timothy continued to be faithful in his walk with God.

    “So why do you still believe in God?” I asked him frankly. “What keeps you from turning away from Him?”

    “Because of what has happened before,” Timothy replied. While he couldn’t “see” God now, he recalled the times when God had helped and protected him. These were signs that God…

    Just-in-Case Idols

    Sam checks his retirement account twice each day. He saved for thirty years, and with the boost of a rising stock market, finally has enough to retire. As long as stocks don’t plunge. This fear keeps Sam fretting over his balance.

    Jeremiah warned about this: “You, Judah, have as many gods as you have towns; and the altars you have set up to burn incense to that shameful god Baal are as many as the streets of Jerusalem” (11:13).

    Judah’s idolatry is remarkable. They knew the Lord was God. How could they worship anyone else? They were hedging their bets. They needed…

    Needing His Leading

    Uncle Zaki was more than a friend to scholar Kenneth Bailey; he was his trusted guide on challenging excursions into the vast Sahara. By following Uncle Zaki, Bailey says that he and his team were demonstrating their complete trust in him. In essence, they were affirming, “We don’t know the way to where we are going, and if you get us lost we will all die. We have placed our total trust in your leadership.” 

    In a time of great weariness and heartache, David looked beyond any human guide, seeking direction from the God he served. In Psalm 61:2 we read,…

    Why Me?

    The Book of Odds says that one in a million people are struck by lightning. One in 25,000 experience a medical condition called “broken heart syndrome” in the face of overwhelming shock or loss. In page after page the odds of experiencing specific problems pile up without answering: What if we’re the one?

    Job defied all odds. God said of him, “There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8). Yet Job was chosen to suffer a series of losses that defied all odds. Of all people on…

    Under Construction

    They just repaved this road, I thought to myself to as the traffic slowed. Now they’re tearing it up again! Then I wondered, Why is road construction never done? I mean, I’ve never seen a sign proclaiming, “The paving company is finished. Please enjoy this perfect road.”

    But something similar is true in my spiritual life. Early in my faith, I imagined reaching a moment of maturity when I’d have it all figured out, when I’d be “smoothly paved.” Thirty years later, I confess I’m still “under construction.” Just like the perpetually potholed roads I drive. I never seem to be…

    Learning from Little Ones

    When a friend and I rode into one of the slums in Nairobi, Kenya, our hearts were deeply humbled by the poverty we witnessed. In that same setting, however, different emotions—like fresh waters—were stirred in us as we witnessed young children running and shouting, “Mchungaji, Mchungaji!” (Swahili for “pastor”). Such was their joy-filled response upon seeing their spiritual leader in the vehicle with us. With these tender shouts the little ones welcomed the one known for his care and concern for them.

    As Jesus arrived in Jerusalem riding on a donkey, joyful children were among those who celebrated Him. “Blessed is…

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